29 March 2011

Short stories

I read an article the other day titled: Is the Short Story Really the Novel's Poor Relation?

I have a mixed relationship (as a reader & writer) with short stories so this topic kinda fascinates. I often feel short changed by a short story, I want to know what happens next, I want more (my penchant for long fantasy series is indicative of my greed).
However, when time is limited, short stories also give a complete escape. I can read one then go on to do something else without wanting to get back to read/writing a story I was in the middle of. Also the market is changing I think, eBooks are driving more readers to short stories because they are hard to find in paper print, so as a writer they are an opportunity, and as a reader they are getting ever more plentiful.

"JG Ballard sees short stories as "the loose change in the treasury of fiction, easily ignored beside the wealth of novels available, an over-valued currency that often turns out to be counterfeit"."

"Steven Millhauser knows whereof he speaks, having written novels as well as some outstanding short fiction, and begins on familiar ground: "The novel is insatiable - it wants to devour the world. What's left for the poor short story to do? [...] The novel buys up the land, cuts down the trees, puts up the condos. The short story scampers across a lawn, squeezes under a fence."

But he quickly subverts the idea of the "poor short story" and its modest ambitions. The novel, obsessed with containing the whole world, is doomed to fail, whereas the short story can see "a world in a grain of sand": "In that single grain of sand lies the beach that contains the grain of sand. In that single grain of sand lies the ocean that dashes against the beach, the ship that sails the ocean, the sun that shines down on the ship, the interstellar winds, a teaspoon in Kansas, the structure of the universe. And there you have the ambition of the short story, the terrible ambition that lies behind its fraudulent modesty: to body forth the whole world."

But for me this quote summed it up for, because depending on time, mood and a host of other things, we want to read, what we want to read right then, not have our choice dictated to us.

"As Richard Ford once told the Paris review, "Forms of literature don't compete. They don't have to compete. We can have it all."

How do you feel, do you have preferences for novels vs. novellas.
Never read a novella - heck, why don't you try mine :) Redemption's Kiss

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